Dental assistants greatly increase the efficiency of the modern dental office in their delivery of quality oral healthcare. They serve as vital members of the dental team, and a successful dental assistant must be technically competent as well as possess interpersonal skills, which enables them to interact with a wide range of patients, doctors and team members.
In addition, they are required to take impressions, perform X-rays/digital images and assist the dentist chair-side in all necessary procedures, which can range from general dentistry to specialties such as oral surgery, pedodontics and orthodontics.
Career opportunities in dental assisting are expected to grow at a much faster pace than the average rate through 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you think a career as a dental assistant might be right for you, here are five tips that will help ensure your success.
1. Be well organized:
As a dental assistant, you will need to be well organized as you could have multiple responsibilities, including patient relations, infection control, radiation safety, technology and adhering to HIPAA/OSHA regulations.
You will escort patients to procedures, prepare materials, and you might be called upon to answer phones and assist with inventory and supplies. As a dental assistant, you’re part of a team and being well-organized helps ensure the team runs smoothly and successfully.
2. Have great people skills:
Not everyone likes going to the dentist—in fact, most people are actually quite nervous about it. That’s why it is so important for you to be a calm and reassuring presence for the patients. Your ability to interact well with patients, staff and other dental professionals can be the difference between you becoming an average dental assistant or an outstanding one. These abilities are known as soft skills.
3. Attention to detail:
A good dental assistant program will teach you how to sterilize and prepare instruments, assist chair-side, take and process X-rays, keep patient dental records and much more. Exceptional attention to detail will help you to accomplish all these tasks easily. Patient safety is ensured by a detail-oriented, thorough work effort.
4. Communication skills are a MUST:
As a dental assistant, you’ll meet and interact with lots of different people. Your ability to effectively communicate with dentists, dental staff, patients and their families can improve the quality of care provided by your office. You inform patients about what they can expect during their visit and you are the primary liaison between patient and dentist by assisting with instructions about proper oral hygiene—that is, if you have great communication skills.
5. Professionalism is everything:
Everything you do as a dental assistant reflects the dental practice and the profession in general. When you understand the importance of dependability, punctuality, professional dress and the significance of a great attitude, you will realize the huge contribution you can make in the lives of others! If you are interested and have questions please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org — I am here for you.
Ida Martinez, CDA, is a New Mexico native and has been a dental assistant for nearly 30 years. She is the lead dental assistant instructor at Pima Medical Institute’s Albuquerque campus. In addition to Ida’s educational experience at Pima Medical, she has worked in a variety of dental office settings in the Santa Fe and Albuquerque areas. Ida is passionate about helping students learn to believe in themselves and to always strive to do their very the best.